lauantai 7. helmikuuta 2015

Breed association as a quality guard

Working dogs’ breeding has aimed especially at a dog that works alongside with a man in a specific task and passes it by character, physics, health and structure. The definition of these breeds describes the elements and features that are desired for a specimen.
The original purpose of many specific breeds may have diminished and new ones have been searched for or even composed. Although a breed should change accordingly the basic characteristics should remain. This involves heavily both breed associations and breed related clubs.
The biggest challenge to breed associations is to maintain the working qualities of the breed in the constant change of our society and within its pressure. It is challenging that people want these working dog breeds to act only as a family pet without the breed specific action.
That brings alongside an urban society that has been already and clearly alienated from a rational co-existence of a man and an animal. Associations and people acting in the name of animal protection have already humanized animals. Animal protection and nurturing their natural living environment is extremely important and substantial work, but a line has to be drawn.
Breed associations have developed several methods to preserve a dog that is as a breed definition says. The meaning behind the breed specific dog-shows is to maintain the breed’s body structure and supporting motion as well as fur quality that fit to the purpose.
Different kinds of trials measure dog’s ability to fulfill the tasks that are defined for its character and trainability. Several breeds have elaborated this with a specific korung for breeding purposes in which a dog that has passed both the trial and the show becomes evaluated by a breed specialist. This is how it also goes with the breed I represent, German shepherd.
These are pretty words but in practice everything doesn’t work as is said and promised. Breed specific dog-shows, and also to some extent the trials, are added with a nature of a competition. Competition is welcome as long as it remains on a healthy basis. For trials and regular dog-shows it brings too much pressure to succeed and differences in opinion on an event that is subjectively judged may not be healthy for a breed. Reaching the top and making the podium have become too determinant for breed specific shows. It has led to the conclusion that one must follow the judges’ preferences and likings, even by placing breeding, health and breed definition and working purpose on a secondary place.The same applies also for trials, not to the same extent, though. Competitions are a part of the game, too, and those bring along new comers and goal orientation like, for example, our breed’s main event the World Championship (WUSV 2015) this year in Lahti, Finland.
This is a path for better visibility and more dogs on stage. That supports both breeding and information sharing. Changes in the society and overwhelming actions in the name of animal and human protection are also endangering the dog tests the authorities are using by setting different kinds of restrictions and complete prohibitions. Not every dog should and need to be a lap dog, even though they need to be good for society.
What are the chances for the breed association to effect on breeding and therefore maintain working-dog qualities? Today in Finland the means are almost and only education and sharing information. The Finnish Kennel Club is making the decisions on registrations and conditions to those, and unfortunately many times with the financial interests first.
The breed association is the specialist of its own breed and it should gain more power and possibilities to regulate the registration conditions. The German shepherd union of Finland collects information from several of sources. We have the trial system in which the trial (IPO) is judged by a specialist that is trained by us specifically for German Shepherds and knows the breed specific qualities. The same applies for German shepherd shows. Our annual breed championship competition in different trial types brings along goal oriented dog handlers and therefore serves the information collecting purposes and visibility. Hip and elbow index implementation (Finnish Kennel Club breeding data system) has improved the physical health. Our GSD Health database, to which dog owners announce the dogs’ health information, is available for all members. We have GSD evaluation mainly for young dogs. Evaluation may be done also for the dogs that have had no training. Also we have almost completed the planning and proposal for our own FIN korung, in which the dog character and structure are evaluated by specialists. Training has always been our breed association’s top priority and we are doing that on a broad range. We educate our training mentors, helpers, breeders and judges. German shepherd in the future is still weather proof, healthy, brave, fighting and trainable quality working-dog. This is what we believe in.

Vesa-Pekka ”Mälli” Hirvioja
The author is the President of the Finnish German Shepherd union and GSD judge

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